Read Cut Online

Authors: Emily Duvall

Cut (2 page)

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Someone laughed and the sound brought her back to reality. Jessie broke away. She stumbled back and looked at him. “You weren't supposed to kiss me like that.”

“Is there any other way to kiss you?”

“You don't even known my name.”

He lowered his lips to her ears. “My name is Brent, if that makes you feel better.”

The name wasn't familiar. Luke's brother was named Derek or Damien or something with a D. Probably Dick. Brent couldn't be Luke's brother. She gave a small sigh of relief. Apparently, he just looked like a member of the Harrison family. To be sure one last time, she looked at him again. The face matched; the name didn't. There wasn't anything left to say. She needed to get back to her friends and her party.

“Good luck to you,” he said, and moved away.

Jessie turned her back to him. The kiss unsettled her. She put her hand on her midsection to calm the knot in the pit of her belly. She dared to look at her friends. Each one of them stood still with drinks in their hands and their eyes wide. They all looked like they'd been hit by a tornado.

Jessie straightened and walked over. “Cross the last item off my list,” she said boldly. “Let's get out of this place.”

Clara handed her a glass full of clear liquid. “You'd better have a drink first.”

“Did you
how he kissed me?” Jessie said, folding her arms over her chest.

“Oh yes,” Louise said in a scandalous voice. “We did.”

“He just came at me. I tried to break away.”

Louise and Clara exchanged a look. They said nothing and didn't have to.

The kiss shouldn't have happened. Red-hot heat burned through her midsection. She blamed Brent. Those arms of his had trapped her, on purpose. She tried to ignore his presence, but he was in her line of vision. He'd already moved on without as much as a backwards glance in her direction. There he sat at the bar with a woman already by his side. The volume of the music beat louder. The room swelled with people and good times, but not for Jessie. Not now. She couldn't ignore the obvious. She'd never been kissed like that before.

Chapter 2

Brent hadn't forgotten her face—or
. The last time they'd seen each other she'd been younger, in her mid-twenties maybe. Who knows really, because they were all packed into a courtroom. She had sat with her family on one side and the Harrison brood seated on the other. The trial of Jessie's older brother, Mark, hadn't been something he'd thought about in years. Until now. Until he ran into Jessica Cahill.

Of all the women to run into tonight.

He gave a casual glance over the bar to see if she'd gone. He spotted her. She stood with her friends. The smoothness of her cheeks and her perfect pouty lips enticed him even from where he sat. He turned back to the bar and sipped his drink. Far more important events dictated his night than Jessica. If anything, she made his decision to go more urgent than ever. He couldn't waste time with her or any other woman. She had the potential to slow him down. She'd already gotten in his way. If his business partner hadn't been delayed, Brent wouldn't be here at all.

The problem was simple. His ex-girlfriend had given him seven diamonds as part of a business deal. He'd brought the diamonds back to the United States and sold them to someone else. They now sat in a vault, at his brother's home, where they kept all their gemstones and awaited the final paperwork to the client. Everything should have worked like a regular business contract, except his ex-girlfriend had stolen them from her father. A minor detail he'd hoped wouldn't have come back to haunt him. But it did. The father now wanted his diamonds returned. These weren't your average diamonds either. Six were pink and one was green—rare and incredible. Brent was their keeper by mistake. And he needed them back, before one of his staff members packaged them up and sent them off to the buyer. He had to get to Luke's home tonight. In less than a week, they needed to be sitting in the hands of their true owner. His future depended on it.

Brent checked his phone. His business partner, Daniel, had sent Brent a text. Finally. The message he'd waited for. Daniel had arrived and waited out front. “Bartender,” Brent said, and signaled to bring the bill. Instead of waiting, Brent took out more than enough cash and set the bills on the counter. He got up to go.

A hand grabbed his arm. He turned around and made sure she saw the annoyance in his eyes. “You again?” he said to Jessica.

“Don't you want to know my name?” she demanded.


Any other woman in this bar he'd have been pleased to see. But her? Not so much. The close proximity of her face to his gave him access to kiss that mouth of hers. Again. His lips bent at the thought. He needed to leave.

She stuck out her hand. “I'm Jessie.”

I know exactly who you are.

Brent didn't take her hand. The lights above played on the brown in her eyes and made them a dark, intoxicating color. He let out a deep sigh. “You're engaged. Go home.”

“The Ritz is my home for the weekend.”

“Let's not do this.”

“Do what?”

A waitress came between them with a tray full of neon green shots. “Anything for you?” she asked Brent.

“No,” he answered. Definitely time to go. Time to leave Miss Cahill and get out of here.

“Yes,” Jessie answered and removed a wad of cash from her small handbag. The waitress handed Jessie the drinks before Brent could refuse.

“I'll pass,” he said.

“Why?” She looked on the verge of pouting.

“Your drink looks like a highlighter.”

“That bothers you?”

“It doesn't bother you?”

“Not tonight. Nothing can ruin this evening, not even you. This is my last weekend as a single girl.”

“You're not single,” he pointed out, and removed the shot from her hand. He passed it to someone walking by willing to take the glass.

“Are you married?”


“Why not?”

“Why do you care?”

She stood on her tiptoes to get close to his ear. Her lips brushed the side of his face. Alcohol-tinged breath reached his mouth. “I like you.”

“You're drunk.”

She giggled. “Don't tell anyone.”

Brent laughed at the innocent expression on her face. “Where's your fiancé? Hitting on someone else this evening. Like you?”

She blinked as if trying to register the comment. “Carl is at home. He's a doctor.”

“Is that the only thing you love about him?”

She stared at him blankly.

“Jessica, enjoy the rest of your evening. Try not to accost anyone else.”

Again, she got in his direct path.

Impatience flashed through him. Brent slid his hand around her waist possessively. One tug forced them together. He lowered his lips to hers and said with dead calm, “Block me one more time and I will kiss you again and if I do that, I will make sure I end up at your hotel to make you mine.”

“There you are!” burst out one of Jessie's friends, the brunette with hair down to her waist. “We've been trying to get your attention.”

Brent let go and Jessie fumbled backwards. He enjoyed the defiant look on her face.

“Clara,” Jessie said.

“Time. To. Go.” Clara looked pointedly at Brent. “Do not follow us.”

“Yeah, stay away from me,” Jessie said, running her fingers over her long chestnut braid.

The women turned their backs to him. Even over the music he heard them ask their questions.

The timing couldn't have been better. Brent slipped out of the place quickly. The kiss had been on him…she could have made this easy on herself, except…she kissed him back.

The door swung closed behind him. Brent ventured into the night.

The downtown had transformed into a skyscraper ghost town. Tall buildings cast shadows over the streets. The occasional light flickered from a window.

This city had been his home since the day he'd turned seventeen and been on his own. He knew the ins-and-outs of the streets like an old friend. He didn't feel unsafe as he walked ahead, past the storefronts and intersections. He felt welcomed by the concrete beneath his feet and the cool night air on his face.

A lot had changed since he was a teenager almost two decades ago. For one, Brent owned a third of Trace Elements, a family-run business for the acquisition and sale of rare gemstones and diamonds. Their company sat at the top of the small business food chain and their impressive clientele list of wealthy and powerful men and women kept Brent busy. Trace Elements seemed like an annoying child tonight. He didn't have time to think about his commitments to the company. The only thing he needed to do was get to Luke's home.

Brent stood at the curb. His gaze hit every passing car. Finally the black SUV rounded the corner and pulled to a stop in front of him. He opened the door before the car stopped moving and got inside. “Let's go to Luke's,” he ordered. Daniel stepped on the gas and sped away from the curb.

They'd been friends for years, having first met as competing gemstone hunters. Now they were business partners.

Today business looked different. Brent moved back to the city to work with his brother Luke on other jewelry endeavors and they offered Daniel a job working for them at the jewelry store. In the spring of next year, they'd be moving Trace Elements to a store in downtown Union Square, in the heart of San Francisco shopping, and open their high-end gemstone jewelry sales to the public. They'd gotten out of the business of traveling around the world in search of the rarest stones to take a bold step in the direction of retail.

Daniel drove in the direction of the marina. From there they drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, to Belvedere and the home of Luke and his wife, Melanie. For God's sake, he'd actually kissed Melanie's sister.

The cell phone in his pocket rang. Brent took it out and swiped the screen. “Kendra,” he said to Luke's assistant, and head of public relations at Trace Elements. He glanced at the clock. Eleven-thirty. “You're still at work?”

“Where are you?” Kendra blurted.

“I'm headed home.”

“You're in the city?”

“I am. What's up?”

“Something's happened.”

A pause.

“Brent…there's been an incident. Melanie's—”

“Is she alive?” he cut in without waiting to hear the rest.

“Yes, barely. She's in a coma at City General.”

Dread shot through Brent. “A coma?”

“The police found her tonight, at the Palace of Fine Arts.” She paused again. “Someone messed her up. She's…oh God, I can't even tell you. You have to get here.”

“What was she doing there tonight?”

“We have no idea. Luke's beside himself.”

“Where is Luke?”

“He's at the hospital.”

“Where was he when this happened?”

“Out with a client, having cocktails.”

Brent motioned for Daniel to pull over. The car idled next to the curb.

“Is she going to be okay?” Brent said.

“The status keeps changing. There's a detective with Luke now. I'm sorry; I don't know any more.”

“What about my nieces?”

“Safe. Everyone at the house is safe. Your Aunt Stevie is with the girls.”

“I'm on my way.” Brent ended the call, then spoke to his driver. “Turn the car around, we're going to City General. Melanie's been attacked.”

Daniel's foot hit the gas pedal. The car peeled away from the curb. The roar of the engine propelled them forward.

The phone rang again and Brent answered his brother's call. “I'm on my way,” he said to Luke.

“The doctor says there's swelling on her brain,” Luke said with such speed, Brent barely caught the sentence.

“I'll be there soon.”

“I can't lose her…”

“You won't.”

“You haven't seen her. Someone beat her. They hurt her. They left her to die.
To die!
I'll kill whoever did this with my own hands.”

“I'll help you.”

Brent thought of his run-in with Jessica and hesitated before he asked about Melanie's family. They weren't on good terms. “What about Melanie's family? Do they know?” At the mention of the other Cahills, Brent sensed immediate tension from his brother.

“Melanie's mother is on her way,” Luke said and added with a chill in his voice, “no one's been able to get in touch with the younger sister, Jessie. Supposedly she's at her bachelorette party here in the city. Go figure.”

Brent snapped up his head. “I know where to find Jessica.”

Daniel braked hard.

“How the hell do you know that?” Luke asked.

“You just worry about Melanie. I'll get Jessica and meet you at the hospital.”

“Where to next?” Daniel said.

“The Ritz-Carlton. On Stockton Street.”

Daniel cut the wheel and the car crossed the center line and U-turned back in the other direction. “We're not far.”

A few short blocks was all it took for Daniel to get Brent to the hotel. A valet appeared at the car door and Daniel spoke with him while Brent got out of the car. The front entrance to the hotel stood mere feet away under a gold awning and Brent whisked through the doors with purposeful steps towards the front desk.

The front desk agent looked up. “May I help you?” she asked.

“I need you to locate a guest,” he said. “Jessica Cahill. She's staying here.”

“I'm sorry, but I can't give out room information.”

“One hundred dollars says you'll help me.”

Temptation flashed in her eyes. “Sir, I'm flattered, but I can't. I can leave a message for her.”

The elevator doors opened.
. Brent turned around in time to see one of Jessie's friends appear. The young woman who'd told him not to follow them. She fiddled with a phone in her hand and looked upset.

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